Happy Valentine’s Day! For all those that are celebrating this love filled Hallmark holiday, I hope you’re enjoying yourself! For those that are looking for other events and/or happy moments to celebrate, why not join me in celebrating Chinese New Year! As the Chinese say, 新年快樂 (xin nian kuai le!). While those that follow the Gregorian calendar have already celebrated the New Year as of January 1st, double dip in New Year’s, starting new healthy habits and/or learning about Chinese dietary customs during this time of celebration!
Since the Chinese use a lunar calendar, the festivities are also known as the Spring Festival and the Lunar New Year, Chinese New Year celebrations run from Chinese New Year’s Eve to the last day of the month of the Chines ecalendar, the Lantern Festival. This means that celebrations often extend for more than two weeks, since the Lantern Festival is not until the 15th day of the first month.
With the Gregorian calendar, Chinese New Year falls on different dates each year, between January 21 and February 20. This year it officially starts on February 19th, but like many holidays, preparations and celebrations may start well before that. It is customary for families to thoroughly clean the house to sweep away any ill fortune.
Each New Year as a presiding animal zodiac, which rotate in a twelve year cycle-at, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, Rooster, dog, and pig. Each animal represents a year in a 12-year cycle, beginning on Chinese New Year’s Day. This year’s celebration is personally important to me as it’s the Year of the Sheep, which is “my year.” What do I mean by “Year of the Sheep?”
The upcoming 2015 year of the Sheep is the inspiring period; it will try to leave behind any unstable affair and connections with the aim to carve a new more honest pattern of relations.
Chinese New Year Traditions:
- 10-year cycle of heavenly stems. Each of the ten heavenly stems is associated with one of the 5 elements of Chinese astrology: Wood, Fire, Earth,Metal, and Water. The elements are rotated every other year
- Yin and Yang association alternates yearly. i.e. Yang Wood, Yin Wood, Yang Fire, Yin Fire, etc.
- Eight individual dishes are served to reflect the belief of good fortune associated with the number eight. If there was a death in the family in the year prior, seven dishes are served.
- Preceding days: on the eighth day of the lunar month, a traditional porridge is served in remembrance of an ancient festival, called La. The women of the household at first light, offers to the family ancestors and household dieties. Laba garlic turns green from vinegar to create pickles. “La month” is similar to Christianity Advent.
- On Chinese New Year’s Eve, many eat vegetarian
- Biggest event is the “Reunion Dinner” on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Fish is often times served. Part of the fish will be saved overnight due to the phrase “may there be surpluses every year”
- Garlic and preserved meat are saved for Chinese New Year’s Day
- In northern China, dumplings (jiao zi, 餃子) are often served around midnight, as they symbolize wealth. Their shape resembles a Chinese sycee, a type of silver or gold ingot currency
- In southern China, 粘 糕 (nian gao) is served, a glutinous new year cake. 粘 糕 literally translates as “New Year cake”, with a homophonous meaning of “increasingly prosperous year in and year out.”
- Other commonly eaten foods during the celebrations: 1) Eight Treasures Rice contains glutinous rice, walnuts, different colored dry fruit, raisins, sweet red bean paste, jujube dates, and almonds; 2) “Tang Yuan” – black sesame rice ball soup; or a Won Ton soup 3) Chicken, duck, fish and pork dishes 4) “Song Gao” translates to “loose cake”- which is made of rice which has been coarsely ground and then formed into a small, sweet round cake 5)“Jiu Niang Tang” – sweet wine-rice soup which contains small glutinous rice balls
If you love the pizazz that comes with lion dances, fireworks, family gatherings,lighting firecrackers, visiting friends, the exchange of giving money in red envelopes and/or hearty food, join me in celebrating Chinese New Year! I can’t wait to make dumplings, rice and just enjoy the start of a New Year! Again, 新年快樂!
Photo Credit: Open Clip Art,Celtnet and X Zone
Food Sources: http://www.gotohoroscope.com/chinese-zodiac-ram.html